BHP IN TALKS FOR EARLY EXIT FROM PNG’S OK TEDI COPPER MINE

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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 7, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---A recent BHP report reviewing the past year has described Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea's Western province as a major challenge and a difficult and complex issue for the company.

BHP, which holds 52 percent ownership of Ok Tedi Mining Limited, has indicated to the other shareholders that the best approach to the dilemma was to close the mine early in a manner that sought to mitigate further environmental, social and economic issues.

The other shareholders include the Papua New Guinea government and Inmet Mining.

However, the report said the government has advised that it considers that its evaluation of environmental, social and economic issues means that the mine should run for its economic life.

BHP says that it understands the reasons for the government's position. As a result it has come to the view that it would not be appropriate for BHP to have any direct involvement with the mine beyond the point at which all parties agree on how best it can exit, it said.

"We want to achieve this exit in a way that ensures a smooth transition, minimizes the environmental impact, maximizes the social benefits and does not incur liabilities for the future operations of the mine," the report said.

"We are currently in discussions with the other shareholders about how this is best achieved."

On the new legal proceedings filed last year by Ok Tedi landowners alleging non-compliance with the terms of the 1996 class action agreement, BHP believes it has complied. It is defending the action.

According to the report, a resolution is not expected until late this year at the earliest.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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